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Nigel Borell

Nigel Borell’s Biography

Last Updated:
6/08/2021, 10:17 pm
Maori Art Curator
A Moment in Time 2021
Pirirākau, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Whakatōhea
"If we’re going to deconstruct the western art canon, then it’s about seeing us as a collective across generations. We’re having conversations with each other across time.”– Nigel Borell for The Spinoff

"When we think about moments that have truly moved the needle on Aotearoa's arts landscape – Toi Tū Toi Ora was one of them. It has redefined the story we tell about the arts in this country." - 2021 Selection Panel

2021 Moment in Time Award He Momo

Nigel Borell is an artist and Māori Arts curator, and the creative mind behind Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art – the landmark survey exhibition that marks a true moment in time for Aotearoa’s arts landscape.

The largest exhibition in the 133-year history of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Toi Tū Toi Ora took over every floor of the Gallery, holding over 300 works by 111 Māori artists. It explored new ways of approaching and engaging with Māori art and Maori art history of the last 70 years, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, clay-making, jewellery and body adornment, photography, digital media, film and installation art.

The Māori creation narrative provided the overarching framework for the exhibition, to highlight the importance of matauranga Māori or Māori knowledge as central in understanding Māori art. The multiplicity of interpretation that artists have bought to bear on this exhibition project provided a dynamic and special moment in Māori art and New Zealand art.

The exhibition was the most attended at the Gallery since 1989, and Toi Tū Toi Ora exhibition key statistics showed that the number of Māori visitors doubled from 7 percent in October 2020 to 14 percent by the end of April 2021. In addition, 51 per cent of people who came to see the exhibition had stepped into the gallery for the very first time. In total 195,000 visitors experienced the exhibition over its five month run at the Gallery.

The timing of the exhibition only amplified its potency and power. With New Zealand’s borders closed due to Covid-19, and a nation surfacing from a national lockdown – a time of great contemplation – a celebration of the monumental scale of Māori culture couldn’t be more relevant.

“It’s a reassertion of the place of Māori culture—that the Indigenous voice of this country is one that is standing tall (toi tu) and standing strong (toi ora).” – Nigel Borell

Milestones & Awards